CHAPTER 27: TATTOOS II

L was extremely glad to discover Rem hadn't truly died, but he felt guilty about her having restricted choices in life. She couldn't do a thing without asking him to do it for her. Rem explained to L that she was glad; the trade-off had been worth it. Being human felt so much better than being a shinigami. Just the orgasms alone would have been worth the drawbacks, but the entire experience was enjoyable. It took a little time to convince L, but after listening to her descriptions of the differences, he believed her.

The next issue to resolve was what to do about the surprise threesome relationship. L felt guilty about having yet another lover on the side after marrying Rem and promising not to cheat. That issue took much more talking to resolve, but L saw reason when Rem explained he'd kept his "til death do us part" promise and that the situation was now entirely different, because with two beings inside one body decisions couldn't be made in the normal way.

The logic finally got through to L. He agreed that they should act, in at least some ways, as if they were one person, and they should jointly make decisions about sex and lovers. With that established, Rem explained how much she enjoyed L's encounters with Light, and how she could tell L was in love with Light and she wouldn't want L to be restricted to nothing except masturbation for the rest of his life just because an accident had caused a shinigami to occupy his body. Rem told L what she'd seen happen to his lifespan when she died, that he might have 180 years left to live unless his quasi-human status made his lifespan meaningless. That was a long time to restrict yourself to masturbation only.

L had soon replaced the markers with a tattooed alphabet of letters in the same font he used for his "L" in communications with law enforcement and the public. The tattoos made it easy for Rem to spell out messages to him. He quickly memorized the locations, whether he had his shirt on or off, but for some time Rem was often iffy about exactly which place she was aiming the itch at unless she could see the letters, so L installed lots of mirrors where he worked and lived and he wandered around topless, keeping his environments a few degrees warmer to compensate.

In about a year, Rem had memorized the locations of each letter and had become lightning-fast at spelling things out, and they'd also developed a system of even quicker signals: the right elbow for yes, left elbow for no, L's forehead for Rem wanting him to look around, L's feet for Rem wanting him to get up and go somewhere, and L's chin for "stop" or "wait."

Unless the message was private, L took to vocalizing all of Rem's messages in a different voice, allowing her to easily talk to any others present. Of those who knew about Rem's existence, not all of them believed Rem was now inside L's body. In the opinions of some of L's close associates, L had simply gone insane.

To everyone who didn't know of Rem's existence as a shinigami, L claimed to be a multiple personality and he also used the "Rem voice" with those people if she had anything to say. People did not react well, but L, as usual, just didn't care about other people's opinions. He had never been willing to adjust his habits to suit their expectations.

Light reacted to the news with a lot of curiosity. He questioned Rem relentlessly about all the details of being human, the things that were worse and the things that were better. He was especially interested in the itching trick, in the exact mechanics of how it felt to cause it. Light grinned when he found out that Rem had to be careful not to make the area become too small, or it was an almost unbearable itch.

L studied Light's reactions and the things he chose to ask Rem, and at the end of Light's first questioning session, he said, "You are planning to become human, aren't you, Light?"

"Thinking about it."

L clung to Light's arm and said, "I'm not sure you would like to lose so much control. I know your human self, and if you become him again, you might be horrified at what you've done. Also, if you regained your memories you might hate me for being your enemy."

"But, you didn't do anything bad other than chasing me and gathering evidence, all the things you've told me. It was just a game. I could always play another game with you. Also, as long as I have the power to create an intolerable itch, I don't think the original owner of the body will be able to boss me around too badly."

L said, "You're smarter than this. It would be unwise to gamble this way. You've only seen one example, and it may not be a typical experience."

Light replied, "That's why I'm going to perform a lot of experiments first."

L wasn't sure whether to be horrified or fascinated by the mission Light took up. Light went on frequent trips to the shinigami realm, where he told everyone about Rem's experience and tried to get gods of death interested in getting themselves stuck in human bodies. L kept tabs on the process as much as he could, mainly through bribing Ryuk, and L tried to make sure all the gods of death were fully informed about both the benefits and the drawbacks of such an existence.

Light's crusade stirred more interest in the shinigami realm than Rem could ever remember. Even some of the hard-core gambling addicts were intrigued by the thought of a life where real risks existed, where existence was meaningful, and where sensations off-limits to gods of death could be fully explored. A number of shinigami started up habits of watching particular humans through the viewing portals, or even visiting the human realm directly, searching out young, healthy humans with short lifespans and trying to develop emotional attachments to them in hopes of averting their murders.

Rem was surprised then, to see the first success only a few months after Light launched his mission, and she was even more surprised to see which shinigami had succeeded, perhaps the last one Rem thought of as being capable of forming an emotional attachment to anyone.

L was staying in a high-security building when a woman came to the front door, looked straight into the video camera, and said, "L, I know you are in there. I need your help."

The woman's voice had the toneless, breathy quality Rem had come to associate with the deaf.

L, upset that his location had been leaked, ushered her inside and had an associate talk with her, pretending to be the real L in order to get her story.

The woman simply said, "I know you aren't L. L is thin, has bags under his eyes, and black hair. I also need to talk with Rem, the shinigami inside L."

Then L had met with the woman personally, and she poured out her story. Her name was Marissa, and Nu had appeared to her and explained that Marissa might die unless she let Nu save her, but the price would be that Nu would dwell inside her body after that. Nu couldn't say when Marissa might die, but until then, she wanted to be friends.

The two of them shared a taste in really sad, tragic novels, and they'd hit it off right away. Only a few months later, Marissa's ex-boyfriend had tried to kill her. Nu wasn't present at the time. She'd earlier explained she wouldn't be there at Marissa's destined time of death because Nu needed to crumble to sand in the shinigami realm, to avoid letting a dangerous weapon loose on humans and possibly wiping Marissa's memory of Nu in the process.

L helped Marissa and Nu figure out a form of communication that would work without Marissa needing to go topless in front of mirrors with letters tattooed all over her torso. When Nu learned the itching trick, which didn't take long since it was apparently easy to learn after you had a description of how to do it, she directed Marissa's finger and hand motions in intricate ways. Each itch was a directional signal for whatever finger, fingertip, or hand part it was on. Marissa moved each part towards the itch. In the process, Nu could direct Marissa to do sign language that formed Nu's messages. Even after being stuck in human bodies, gods of death still knew all languages, so Nu knew sign language just as fluently as Marissa did.

Nu was very happy with the arrangement she'd made. In the shinigami realm, she'd always had to endure some distant sounds of wind, no matter where she went. But now, occupying a deaf woman, Nu was living in the completely silent world she'd always dreamed of. Nu said it was worth it to endure noise in the human realm for a few months before the blissful silence.

After that, L kept even closer tabs on the progress of shinigami who were trying to form bonds with humans in order to enter their bodies. Some of them experienced repeated failures with humans who were fated to die from causes other than murder, and some of them didn't form the necessary emotional attachments, and so averted murders without the desired result of occupying the human afterwards. Still, by the time five years had passed, seven shinigami were occupying human bodies, all of them had learned the itching trick, and all were more or less happy. If things continued at such a rate, the shinigami realm would be empty in half a century.

That was when Light began planning how he would get himself into a human body. Light wanted to choose a human who would be willing to have a relationship with L and Rem, and that was the tricky part. Not only did the main human occupant of the body need to love L and Rem, but L and Rem needed to be able to love that person in return. Furthermore, if Light simply chose a young, healthy person with a short lifespan, the person might be fated to die from an unexpected medical condition or an accident instead of murder.

L let Light choose the candidates, and then he dated them. Almost all that Light chose were men, because L had told Light that his human self probably wanted to be male, and might be upset if stuck in a female body. Every candidate was also highly intelligent, since L couldn't see himself liking someone of average or lower intelligence, and as a person in his fifties who looked twenty-eight and was dating people in the age range he looked, he needed someone who was well beyond the mindset of the average young person.

L made no secret of his eccentricities or his "multiple personality" status, and many dates ended disastrously within the first 15 minutes. L wasn't fazed at all. He needed someone who had no objections to any of his quirks, and it was more efficient to get rid of those people who had objections as quickly as possible. Of those who got to the stage where they were going on multiple dates with L, most backed out when L introduced them to Light and told them he hoped to put the skull-faced monster inside their body. L purposely did not tell any of them about the saving-your-life part, because he didn't want anyone to start a relationship with him out of desperation.

L did not really hit it off with anyone until he met Mark, a 32-year-old Norwegian man who made his living by creating replicas of 17th century sailing ships. Mark was a brilliant genius, right on the edge of brilliance and insanity. He was every bit as reclusive and anti-social as L and he had a number of odd habits originating from an obsessive-compulsive disorder. L didn't mind any of Mark's quirks, and Mark didn't mind L's quirks. And, Mark was highly fascinated by the idea of having a non-human occupy his body. Light didn't scare him at all.

There was a kind of calm with Mark that Rem liked. It wasn't a cold calm, like the one Dolores had often displayed. It was a warm, loving calm. L and Mark could sit near each other for hours without saying anything, and feel as if they'd had a deep experience. But, they also had long, intellectual discussions about every topic imaginable. L and Mark lived together for six months before they had sex for the first time, and their household ran smoothly along with their relationship. There were few fights, and most were resolved quickly. Rem could easily imagine Mark and L having a happy long-term relationship.

The first few sexual experiences with Mark were without Light present. It was just L, Rem and Mark trying to get used to the dynamics of their relationship before adding yet another element. Human sex wasn't as good as shinigami sex, at least in terms of the level of stimulation possible, but it was a lot better than masturbation and it had other advantages. Stimulation wasn't everything. There was something very profound about being held in a warm human embrace during sex, skin against skin, seeing and feeling the other person's responses. L was so happy being cuddled and fucked by someone who could feel what he felt, and with no protective blanket forming a barrier. There was something incredibly intimate about the entire experience.

And then, Light began joining them nearly every time, and sex got even better. Rem was a bit sad about Light's desire to be human. Once it happened, there would be no more shinigami sex, and she was also frightened that Light might take on the ugly aspects of his old human personality. He had been quite a flawed, corrupted person, especially towards the end. But, he'd died and been through a lot since then, and being a shinigami was almost like a jail sentence, and if he'd been allowed to live out his lifespan as a human in jail, he'd have died before this time. So, if death or life in prison absolved a criminal's debt to society, then Light had already paid both those prices.

But, before a full year had passed in Mark and L's relationship, an angry client who had been in litigation with Mark for years over a supposedly faulty ship lost the case and went after him in a rage. Light knew Mark's exact time of death, so he watched events from a portal in the shinigami realm and killed the attacker, making sure his death note did not end up in the human realm.

L's relationship with Light/Mark was more complex than his relationship with Mark alone had been. Hints of the old rivalry were present, and, in a sense, Rem thought that Light and L were still engaged in some kind of game with each other. There was more of a spark, more sexual tension, then there had been between L and Mark alone, and L's emotions during sex were much happier. L was very pleased to finally be having real sex with Light.

For his part, Light was a complete sex maniac. He tried to convince Mark to have sex far more often than the guy wanted, even more often than L wanted, and L had a pretty strong sex drive. On many occasions, L had to scold Light about trying to push Mark into sex by using the itching trick, and L wasn't afraid to withhold sex as a punishment if he thought Light was being mean to Mark in any way. Light reluctantly gave way as a result of L's punishments, and most of the time he was quite nice to Mark.

L's detective work continued throughout all this. Matsuda had retired and was only seen on occasional visits, but Mello, Matt and Near continued to be part of the "L" detective agency along with L himself. L was still extremely paranoid about his identity, but even with his great care, there had been some small leaks of information over the years. Law enforcement agencies were now sure that "L" was a group of people, and they had rudimentary physical descriptions of L, Mello, Matt and Near. Although, they erroneously thought that L was the youngest of the bunch. L attempted to nullify the leaks by frequently using proxies and by planting false rumors, but it only worked to some extent.

The problem wasn't really that law enforcement agencies had some idea who "L" might be. Rather, it was that knowledge held by those agencies would leak to the criminal underworld. Armed with a small amount of information, crime bosses began targeting L and his associates, and there were a number of narrow escapes.

To avoid this attention, L tried to work under the name "L" less and under his other detective aliases more, but unfortunately he often needed a great deal of cooperation and respect from law enforcement agencies, and nobody else had as much clout as "L" did. It wasn't like L could let it be known that his other aliases were also "L" because that would defeat the purpose of hiding from crime bosses.

Eventually L did get cornered in a bad way. He was trapped in an abandoned building that was collapsing because criminals were tearing down the front using construction equipment. L had to gradually work his way to the back of the building, constantly looking for an alternate way out, because he knew there was a gunman waiting at the back entrance. Along the way, there was nothing, not even a window, and the building was collapsing constantly behind him.

At last L was flattened against the wall near the back entrance, ready to dash for it and hope for the best. He waited until the last possible second, and then ran.

Rem heard the gunshot immediately and, at the same moment, she saw L reach out, make an enormously quick movement, and snatch the bullet from the air. L peered at it, frozen in astonishment at what he'd done, but then another gunshot rang out, and L caught the next bullet. Wonder and excitement and determination were all overwhelming L. He made his way toward the gunman, who was hiding behind a broken fragment of what had once been a stone wall, snatching bullets from the air one after the other.

When L had almost reached the fragment of stone wall, the gunman stood up, trembling, and shot one last bullet directly at L. L neatly caught it, and said, in a calm and amused tone of voice, "I think you should know that I am L, and that I'm not human."

The gunman immediately gave up and let himself be led away. After that, L tested himself in various ways. He tried to snatch bullets from the air at his private firing range, and failed. He tried to provoke super-speed in all sorts of ways, and failed. He didn't understand how he could do something so many times in a row and then suddenly lose the ability. But, soon an event occurred that helped L start to understand what was really going on. The latest Watari, a man in his forties with a thin mustache and slicked-down black hair, came to L one day trembling and almost in tears.

Watari explained that he'd been poisoning L's food for months, because crime bosses had uncovered his identity as Watari and threatened to kill his entire family if he didn't cooperate. He begged for forgiveness and said he was a despicable person. L relieved Watari of his job after putting himself and his family into protective custody, and then L went after the criminals responsible and caught them. L had his body tested, and found multiple poisons in his system, in doses large enough to kill hundreds of people. He should have at least had some ill effect, but there was no reaction at all.

L was beginning to understand, but it was the third assassination attempt that made everything clear. This time, L was kidnapped and put in heavy restraints. He was placed in handcuffs and shackles, and then into a cloth sack with just his head sticking out, and then additional chains were wrapped around that. He struggled but was completely immobilized. Then, while two criminals stood on guard with guns and one held a video camera to record the execution of L, a fourth criminal approached with a chainsaw, aiming it right at the neck to cut off L's head.

At the last moment, L suddenly burst all his restraints, grabbed the blade of the running chainsaw and, without any injury at all, began tearing it apart with his bare hands. The motor shrieked and smoke came out briefly before it stopped, and then there was only the scream of twisting metal as L continued to dismantle the thing. The guy who had been holding the chainsaw ran out and left.

In the next moment, L turned his gaze to the three remaining criminals and said, "Give up, and help me catch all your associates, and you'll have lighter sentences."

The cameraman and one gunman held up their hands in surrender, but the other gunman fired a few bullets, only to watch L catch each one.

L looked at him calmly and said, "You can still receive a slightly lighter sentence if you are extremely helpful. I suggest you give up."

The last guy dropped his gun and said, "What are you?"

L replied, "I'm someone who's had forbidden contact with the gods. Would you believe I'll be seventy next year?"

L smiled slightly then, and Rem could feel a kind of predatory satisfaction within him. L loved catching criminals and, on rare occasions, he liked seeing people react to his secrets.

After that event, L understood how it worked. If his life were threatened, he'd become physically capable of doing whatever was needed to save his life. This was the positive side effect of the cracks, and it had taken quite a number of years to show up, just as Nu had indicated.

The other people who'd had sexual contact with shinigami eventually showed the same ability, including Mark. L kept doing his detective work through the years, sometimes taking more risks in cases since he knew he couldn't get killed. As the years passed, his fully human friends and acquaintances died one by one of old age. The "L" detective agency took on new members to replace Mello, Matt and Near. The shinigami realm continued to empty, until there were only five left, including Ryuk. Ryuk didn't want to be human. He liked flying and not having any responsibilities and being able to spy on anyone, and he had no interest in sex whatsoever. He thought it was extremely disgusting, and outright stated that it wouldn't be worth it no matter how good it felt.

L stayed in touch with many of the shinigami-occupied humans over the years. The ones who'd had sexual contact with shinigami aged at a very slow rate, but the others aged normally and showed no special powers other than the linguistic knowledge and other knowledge held by the gods of death within their bodies.

Throughout his entire life, L aged slowly. He didn't appear to be in his thirties until he was in his late nineties, and he didn't seem middle-aged until he was about 150. He did certainly get old, very slowly, and his body wore out a little, but he was almost ageless to the humans around him.

As L aged, he couldn't stay up such long hours any more without paying a price, and his detective work slowed down. Old L looked a bit like Einstein, and Rem considered it to be appropriate. L was an aging genius, far older than hardly anyone knew, but his mind was as sharp as ever. Rem wondered if L would live out the entire lifespan she'd seen above his head, and she wondered if Light/Mark would live out Light's shinigami lifespan of approximately 100,000 years.

After many happy years, Rem had the answer to one of those questions. L died quite suddenly, right after a bursting pain in his head. He was 230 years old; it was exactly when his lifespan ran out. Light/Mark was there at the time and caught L as he was falling, gently cradling him as L looked up and shakily snaked his arms around Light/Mark in a hug. It was an eerie repeat of the incident when Rem had pretended to kill L 205 years before in the Kira task force headquarters. In the designated Light voice, Mark said, "L, I love you."

And then, everything went black. It was kind of like sleep for a long time, with a very dim awareness, overwhelmed with drowsiness, nearly unconscious. Then Rem began hearing sounds, soft and indistinct at first, but gradually growing louder. There was a steady back-and-forth whooshing that sounded more and more like ocean waves, and the calls of sea birds, along with tiger-like growls and distant sounds that might be screams. Rem began feeling things, light shining on her face, a surface like warm sand underneath her. At first, she could only lie there, paralyzed, but suddenly she breathed, and realized she hadn't been breathing before, and her eyes came open and she sat up.

Rem saw she was sitting on a long, narrow strip of beach that went as far as the eye could see in front of her and behind her. To her left, there was the ocean and, to her right, the beach sand soon transitioned into the wildest-looking jungle she'd ever seen. Above, the sky was cloudless, bright and mostly blue, but completely devoid of the sun or moon. Looking toward the jungle, it seemed as if the sun had recently set beyond distant mountains, and the sky there was tinged with red. In the opposite direction from the jungle, the ocean itself went on to the horizon with no sign of other land, but there were a few things that looked like mostly-submerged coral reefs, and, far out, weird fish surfaced and dived constantly. Rem could only see their backs, but they looked alien, covered with plates and spikes. At least half of them were a bright, garish orange.

But it was the noises, not the sights, which drew Rem's attention the most. The jungle emitted the most disturbing sounds almost constantly. There were growls and roars, like those made by lions or tigers, and weird sounds that might be either screams or birdcalls, it was hard to tell, and heavy snorts, as if something with enormous lungs were breathing noisily, and then there were the footsteps. One or more loud things made footsteps, sometimes seeming to recede into the distance or come closer, pausing occasionally, and during the pauses there were often ripping, snapping sounds like tearing vegetation or small trees being broken off.

As soon as Rem had taken in her first impressions of her environment, she began examining her body. She was human, and female, dressed in her finest Scythian clothing. She recognized her red robe with many small gold plates sewn into the fabric, and her quilted leggings, and her wide leather belt with the belt-plate and belt-hooks carved from cow horn. She reached up to her neck and found her meerschaum and amber necklace. She grabbed a bit of her hair and held it in front of her face, seeing the familiar blazing orange color. Yes, she was back in her original human body, and she even had both eyes.

Rem got up and dragged one booted foot in the sand, digging in and making a mark. It was very fine and dry. She looked along the beach in each direction. It looked unnatural, almost infinite, as if there were no curvature of the earth at all. The narrow beach seemed to extend forever in both directions, with no variation in its features. Rem had the sense that she could walk down it as long as she wanted in either direction and she'd never see any change.

So, then, it was the jungle or the ocean. The jungle was scary. It seemed to exude a presence, a weirdness, and the sounds were creepy, and it was dark, very dark, in the spaces under the trees. It did not seem like a good idea to explore it first. Rem walked toward the ocean. It was bright and smelled wonderfully salty, and something about it was inviting. As she approached the water, suddenly hundreds of extremely tiny blue crabs emerged from the sand and scuttled sideways on elegant, perfectly formed legs, running into the waves and disappearing.

Rem edged forward more cautiously and gazed at the water, standing just above the line of foam and wet sand. Now that she was close, she could see things under the water she didn't understand. Just under the waves, swaying back and forth lazily, there were things that looked like something between long, stringy weeds and tentacles. They were elongated fleshy finger-like branching growths, whitish with a green tinge, and eyeballs were nestled among them. The eyeballs looked rather human, and alive. They had every imaginable iris color, including odd ones such as purple, and they seemed to be looking, actually looking, in whatever direction they were facing.

Rem wanted to get a better look, but when she tried to take the next step she ran into something like an invisible wall. She couldn't feel it, but it stopped her progress along a very precise boundary, and she could even see her clothing flattening as she pressed up against it. It was like pressing yourself against a glass window you couldn't feel. Rem even tried leaning against it, and it supported her weight. Then she kicked it hard. There was no pain, and her foot simply stopped at the boundary, but at that exact instant all the floating eyeballs looked directly at her.

Her heart was pounding in fear and she was scuttling back at the same time, afraid that the tentacles would suddenly rise from the water and grab her. But, as she retreated to the middle of the beach, she could see nothing like that was happening, and it felt peaceful there, like any lazy day relaxing on the beach. Rem sat down in the soft, warm sand and calmed herself, building up her courage for the investigation of the jungle.

When she was ready, she slowly approached the line of thick, almost unbearably green vegetation that formed a nearly perfect straight line at the upper border of the beach. The tallest trees in the jungle were quite high, but there were a lot of different levels to the canopy, and even the undergrowth was rather thick. However, Rem could see from the beach that there were dark, gaping, almost cave-like tunnels through the undergrowth, and barely-perceptible things rustled and thrashed there in the darkness.

As Rem approached, it got colder. Not actually cold, it was just that the warmth was bleeding away. The jungle cast long jagged shadows, like fingers reaching toward the ocean, and the sand under those shadows was cool. Rem shivered a bit and slowed her pace. She was almost expecting it when she ran into another invisible boundary. She pressed herself against it and eyed the jungle in front of her.

She was so close to the place where the sand ran out, but not close enough to even pluck a single green leaf. There were still a few distant roars and bird-screams, but the nearby sounds had become eerily quiet as Rem approached, and now it felt like every creature in that section of jungle was holding its breath, waiting to see what Rem would do. Rem wondered if something was watching her here, too.

She kicked the invisible wall, and suddenly a tree in front of her, or rather parts of it, started shaking and twisting and flowing away. There was something, like a big mass of vegetation, that slithered and climbed through that tree, retreating from Rem. It was all long vines, and leaves, and looping, slender branches, and it was difficult to see where that thing ended and the actual tree began. Then the mass of vegetation leapt from that tree to the next and slithered along, getting further away. By the time it jumped to a third tree, it was almost completely out of sight. Rem listened to its slithering, leafy sounds as they gradually retreated into the jungle, and then she felt her way along the invisible wall, trying to see if it had any holes in it. She found none.

Rem went back toward the ocean and explored the ocean's invisible wall in each direction for a short distance, even trying to dig underneath it, but she found no holes, nor any way to thwart it. But, she did see an additional scary sight under the waves. It was a huge mouth, like something that had been removed from a shark. It was covered with sharp, triangular teeth, and thin, stretched, greenish-yellow flesh, and it was attached to something like a mass of floating jellyfish parts that was perhaps its stomach. It lay there under the water, open and twitching, waiting for something or someone.

Rem considered trying to hike along the length of beach, but something inside her told her it was pointless, that she should stay and wait. Rem didn't know what she was waiting for. Could this possibly be it, the existence she'd have forever and ever? If this was the afterlife, it was some weird combination between pleasurable and creepy. Relaxing on a beach forever wasn't exactly a bad thing, though it was bound to get boring, especially without swimming. Was there some deity who had decided this was what humans wanted? Was this a good afterlife or a bad afterlife, or neither?

Rem decided to do what she could for entertainment in the place she was, so she dug in the sand, finding a wet layer further down, and she pulled up handfuls of the wet sand and began making a sand castle. The middle of the beach had an emotional quality to it that settled over Rem quickly. It created a calm, peaceful feeling, very relaxed, as if nothing could ever go wrong. Yes, every time she reached the middle of the beach, an outside source of relaxation shaped her feelings. It was some kind of magical effect.

Rem kept working on her sand castle, experiencing a lazy pleasure that seeped through her body all the way into her bones, and she'd actually built quite an impressive structure by the time she realized that this place, and her existence, was devoid of all time cues. The sun was neither setting nor rising, and she did not get hungry, or thirsty, or tired. There was no weather whatsoever, only the perpetual blue, bright sky with red just at the horizon in the direction of the jungle.

And then, after what seemed like ages, Rem saw a familiar figure walking along the beach in the distance. She knew that slouched walk, and the white, long-sleeved t-shirt, and the shock of spiky black hair. It was L as she hadn't seen him for a long time, an L looking just a few years older than when she'd first met him. Rem ran toward him, and a moment later, he noticed and was running toward her as well.

When they drew close, Rem slowed down. She was a bit leery. Could this be some kind of monster or apparition, not the real L?

He said, "You're afraid it isn't me. Well it is. It's very nice to see you, Rem."

He placed his thumb just resting gently at his lower lip, and looked at her with an expression of love, his dark eyes like shimmering pools of ink.

Rem got a bit more courage and approached closer. It looked like him. Her emotions told her it was him, but this place was so strange; it was hard to trust anything.

L said, "We're in a very unique situation. It isn't often that two dead people can meet like this. I obtained special permission, and we don't have much time."

With that, Rem suddenly closed the last bit of distance between them, and hugged him close, feeling his arms enclosing her as well.

She said, "What's happening? I don't want to lose you again."

L pet her hair and said, "We'll be parting ways soon, but we'll meet again in the afterlife, in Mu. This place is only a stopping-point for the newly dead. The beach is practically infinite. People who die at the same place and time, as we did, are close enough that it is sometimes possible to travel along the beach and meet before we're forced into the jungle. Then, after going through the jungle, everyone ends up in Mu."

"How do you know all this?"

"I spoke with one of the gatekeepers. The gatekeepers give the dead instructions, and you can't move on from this beach until you've been fully instructed. But, once you have your instructions, the barrier to the jungle disappears and the pull becomes stronger until you must go. Since I've had my instructions, I'm resisting the pull right now. I asked that a gatekeeper wouldn't talk to you until after I'd found you, so we could be together a short time."

Rem hugged L closer, feeling his heartbeat, feeling the warmth of his body.

Then she said, "How long does the jungle take? How long until we meet again after this?"

"The jungle takes a different amount of time for each person. Rem, I believe we're both strong and we will make it through in a short amount of time. The purpose of the jungle is to force you to confront challenging situations based on the life you've lived, and rid yourself of fear, anger and unhealthy attachments. That way, you can be purified and develop a good attitude so you'll be happy in Mu. You'll see people from your life in the jungle, but they won't be real. They will create obstacles and puzzles for you. Winning will not be as important as learning maturity and grace, shedding your negative emotions. If you are brave and learn, the time is brief. If you don't do that, it might take hundreds of years to work your way through the jungle. Everyone makes it out eventually, whether they learn or not."

"We'll truly be together in Mu? You're sure we won't be in separate sections?"

L said, "Everyone is together in Mu. Concepts such as distance, direction and form are meaningless. There is only one location, so to speak, and everyone is in it, but nobody has bodies and there are no objects of any kind. Mu is what you make of it. It is heaven and hell combined into one place, but both of those are merely states of mind. Also, there's not much hell in Mu. Most people are purified in the jungle so they have a positive attitude by the time they reach Mu, and those who are unsatisfied with Mu can choose to reincarnate and try again."

Rem tried to imagine such an existence. If everyone occupied exactly the same place, wouldn't it be confusing? Wouldn't it be boring if there was nothing there at all? She supposed you could talk with other people, but it didn't sound like a nice way to spend eternity.

Rem said, "If there's nothing there, and nothing happens, how can it be good?"

L said, "If you feel happy all the time and everyone that you love is with you, then you don't really need things at all. Also, events do happen, just not the kind of events that can be described with human languages. It's an entirely different world, and most people like it enough to stay. Nobody is forced to remain there."

Rem said, "But, what about the people you hate? Isn't it unpleasant to be in the same place as them?"

"Once you've traveled through the jungle, you don't have much hate in you. The experiences there are designed to rid you of harmful emotions such as hate and fear."

Rem said, "But...," but L smothered her question with a kiss. He put hands on each side of her face and kissed long and hard and deep, moving his mouth against hers tenderly. Rem melted into the kiss, feeling his eagerness, and his slight trembling, and the way he was gentle and aggressive all at once. She'd never kissed him as a human before, and the sensation of his warm lips and wet tongue were wonderful. She felt like she couldn't get enough of it.

When he broke the kiss, he said, "The gatekeeper that will come to you will answer every question. You aren't able to leave this place until you have been fully instructed. Once a gatekeeper arrives, it actually takes about a day of constant talking. Why don't we just relax on the beach while we can?"

Rem nodded, feeling a little selfish for questioning him so much, but it was so nice to be with him she quickly forgot her guilt. She sat down on the sand and he sat next to her, snuggled right up to her shoulder, and the emotional calmness of the middle of the beach came over them. Rem could feel how relaxed L was by the low tension of his muscles, very soft and loose. She leaned her head against his and they intertwined their fingers together, watching the steadily pounding surf and the distant, wheeling flight of a few sea birds.

Rem said, "I love you, L. I wish we could have had a more direct relationship, like a normal man and woman. But, it was great, and it lasted a very long time, and it isn't really over."

L said, "I love you too, Rem. I love you more than Light. My relationship with Light was always half rivalry, but with you it is pure love. I'll miss you when I'm in the jungle."

"Can't we try to go in together?"

"No, it's impossible. Even if we could walk into the jungle holding hands, we'd immediately be separated and kept that way. This is our last time together until we meet without bodies, in a place that isn't a place at all. It will be different. Just as you are, I'm a bit skeptical about whether Mu could really be fun, but I believe in experimental results. If people are free to leave but they choose to stay, it must be nice."

Rem laughed and said, "I hope so, but you've never been one to believe what you're told without testing it first. How can you be sure the gatekeeper told you the truth?"

"You're right, Rem. But, in this case I have no way of testing it except by going there and seeing what it's like. Plus, it would probably be pointless for beings powerful enough to control all this to tell us lies."

Rem slid her head down his shoulder and then into his lap, wriggling around until she was gazing up into his face. He looked very contented, and he had no bags under his eyes, none at all. L seemed healthier than Rem had ever seen him.

She reached up one hand to trail along the edge of his chin and said, "You're always so smart. You know how to make me feel better."

He made a little hum, almost a purr, and his eyes became half-closed, lust beginning to spark in their depths.

He said, "I don't want to cheapen this time with sex, but I want you."

L began rubbing her thigh through the fabric of her quilted leggings. Rem suddenly wanted him, very badly, and she pulled herself up onto his body in a twisting motion, and then she flattened him back against the sand.

L breathed, "Rem!"

The low, urgent tone in his voice turned her on even more. She was getting quite damp, feeling the sensations of being in an aroused female body for the first time in more than two thousand years. She'd gotten used to the feeling of being physically a male, even though she'd never identified as male, and it was just so wonderful and right to have her gender match up with her physical form for once.

Then L was sliding his hands under her clothing, plucking here and there with his long skillful fingers, gently undoing it all and lifting it away. Rem was doing the same to him, and then they were both naked and entwined in the warm sand, still feeling that immensely calm, languid emotion created magically by the center portion of the beach.

Rem was immediately all over L's body. She knew exactly where to touch, or lick, or suck and precisely how to do it. After all, she'd been an occupant of L's body for slightly less than two centuries. Rem knew what turned L on and how to make him whine or shake or scream in pleasure. And soon, she had it, she was completely in control of his responses and could take him as high as she wanted. Without even penetrating her yet, he was a sweating, moaning mass under her attentions, shouting her name, his voice thick with lust, and it was turning her on more and more, being able to do this to him.

Then, he suddenly rolled over, pinned her in a smooth movement and let out a giggle like he was planning something naughty.

He trailed a finger slowly down her side and said, "You did that stuff to me for ages. It's time for me to do you, Rem."

She at first thought he was going to penetrate her, but he knelt between her legs, bringing his mouth down to her damp sex. He breathed on her clitoris, hot and moist, and she felt it hardening, springing to life, yearning for his touch.

He didn't lick, but he said, "I wonder. I'm feeling very experimental today. These bodies don't eat or drink or go to the bathroom."

L slipped a finger slowly inside her vagina and then placed a thumb next to her clitoris, rocking it gently back and forth, but his head went lower, and suddenly Rem could feel his tongue flicking gently against her anus. She tightened instinctively, but then remembered what he'd said. These were new, clean bodies and they had nothing, nothing whatsoever inside their digestive tracts. The place L was licking was completely clean. Rem relaxed and was rewarded by an exquisite sensation, of L's tongue slipping past the tight ring of muscle and licking inside there as his finger penetrated her vagina and that thumb rocked back and forth, prodding her clitoris relentlessly.

L always thought of everything! Rem wouldn't have thought to try this just because their bodies didn't eat. But it was good, it was extremely good, there was something immensely delicious and intimate about it, his tongue so nonchalantly slipping in and out of that place while he finger-fucked her vagina and rubbed her clit. It was immensely relaxing and stimulating at the same time, and Rem felt like she was melting into a languid bliss as she was climbing up toward her orgasm.

When it happened it was strong, unusually strong, and it shook her in waves as she cried out, but at the same time it was perhaps the mellowest orgasm she'd ever had. She was immensely relaxed and contented in the throes of her bliss, sleepy-feeling, and she almost didn't notice it when L climbed up her body and positioned his erection to enter her vagina.

He looked into her eyes intensely, probing and searching with his own round, dark eyes. He said, "Rem."

And then, he was slowly pushing into her vagina, and it was their first joining as a man and a woman. It felt so good. Rem was still sensitive and tingling from her orgasm and the length sliding into her vagina felt extremely hot and rock-hard and it made her want to scream and claw and arch her back. She resisted, though, because she wanted to look at him, to drink in his presence, to watch him just for a little while, and to concentrate on the feeling of his cock entering her over and over again.

Then she was panting, and her back was arching, and he was going faster, and she was losing it, scratching at his back as he giggled and mumbled dirty things in her ear in his low, rumbling voice, one of his hands reaching down between their bodies to stimulate her erect little nub just right. She came hard, harder than ever, and this time it wasn't relaxed, it was a hot, frantic orgasm that forced a loud scream from her lips, and he didn't stop, but just kept thrusting at the same steady pace, and it made her climax so much better, each push an extra surge of pleasure.

Then he thrust a few more times and was suddenly twitching inside her while his entire body shook and his face was so blissful and pink, with a few little strands of hair damply plastered to his forehead and he was shouting, "Fuck! Fuck!"

He collapsed onto Rem and she gathered him to her, forming their bodies into a blissful little nest of naked arms and legs sprawled in the warm sand. Their cuddling was calm and perfectly relaxed, with them listening to the beating of each other's hearts and the constant pounding of the surf. It was so perfect. It seemed that nothing else would ever feel this right.

After a time, L began stirring restlessly, letting out half-smothered painful little moans. He said, "Rem, if Mu isn't as good as this, I'll want to go back. You'll come with me if I do, won't you?"

Rem stroked his hair, his marvelously soft and messy long black fluff, and said, "Of course. So, there's a way to do that together?"

L said, "Yes. The gatekeeper said, if people in Mu choose reincarnation together, they can arrange it so they are born around the same time in close proximity to each other."

Then L looked up into Rem's eyes, and she saw the pain in them. She said, "Is it the pull? How long have you been hurting?"

"I've been hurting since before you saw me, but it just got much worse. I need to go. I'm sorry, Rem."

He was trembling from the pain now, and his hands were unsteady, so she helped him dress, and then they held hands and walked toward the jungle. Just before they reached the boundary, L turned back and said, "Be brave, Rem. If both of us have courage and are determined to shed our negative emotions, it will be very soon. I'll see you in Mu."

Then they continued walking forward hand-in-hand, and Rem felt herself smack into the invisible boundary, but L kept going forward unimpeded. Rem fixed her eyes on his retreating figure as long as she could, but it became indistinct in the darkness and then was swallowed up. Two days later, the boundary dissolved for her as well, and she walked into that jungle, eyeing all the slithering shapes that lurked almost out of her vision and telling herself she'd do whatever it took to see L again soon. She could stand up to anything. After all, she was a war priestess.


A/N (Author's Note):

I finally finished it! Yay! This is now the 26th completed Death Note fic of over 100,000 words on fanfiction dot net. There aren't very many completed ones of that length.

And, yes, this is finished. I'm not going to write about L and Rem's adventures in the afterlife. They are obviously going to breeze through that jungle quicker than most dead people do, and have a nice time in Mu, possibly with reincarnation at some point.

And, yes, this is a fluffy ending even though I killed nearly everyone. I mean, the fic covers 205 years of time, and L dies of old age at age 230 after a long and happy career and experiencing long-term happy sexual relationships. It's harder to get fluffier than "nearly everyone dies of old age after much happiness" endings.

Besides, L, though dead, is still walking around, so it's not like he's dead-dead.

The idea of Mu I'm presenting in this chapter is roughly compatible with canon. Everyone goes to Mu, and Mu is nothingness. However, it isn't a sad nothingness or a boring nothingness, it's just a lack of form. Furthermore, there is no heaven or hell, because both are merely states of mind of individual souls dwelling within Mu.

The idea of going through trials to purify the mind before entering the real afterlife is inspired by the fanfic "True Elision" by Ezan, which is really good and entirely worth reading even though it isn't finished.

And, I've finally put in the chainsaw-beheading scene that I've been hinting about for so many chapters! Yes, I've had this ending mapped out for a long time.

The only dangling plot thread is, what happens to Light now? Will he live out his outrageously long lifespan? The answer is, I have no idea and I don't want to write about it. However, I expect that nobody wants to live in a human body for more than about 3,000 years or so, and Light and Mark will probably eventually get tired of life and find a way to off themselves, some loophole that works despite their special powers. But, it'll probably be a really long time until that happens. The way I think of Light, I imagine he would like being immortal for quite a long time.

Oh, and I guess there is one more plot thread: there are only five shinigami left. What will happen to them and their world? I'm guessing, since even shinigami eventually die, that they'll all die off at some point and then there will be no more shinigami or death notes. But that'll probably take a while, and there are a lot of unclaimed death notes in the shinigami realm, so if even one shinigami decides to go on a big reproduction spree before it all ends, it could all get reversed.

And, if this fic made you think that human/shinigami relationships might be cool, you may want to check out my LightxRyuk pairing fic, "Joined"